Thursday, 30 September 2010

Liverpool & Manchester 180th Celebrations

'Planet' on a passenger train passes 'Rocket' waiting for its next working.

The Liverpool & Manchester Railway can claim to be the world’s first inter-city passenger railway. The original opening ceremony on 15th September 1830 was marred by an accident involving William Huskisson MP, a keen supporter of the new railway, now better remembered as "the world’s first railway casualty". The injured Huskisson was carried by 'Northumbrian' at speed to Eccles for treatment but died of his injuries. Notwithstanding this inauspicious start, the railway was a great success and still forms an important part of England's railway network.

The Manchester terminal station was in Liverpool Road and a number of the original buildings survive. Although rapid growth in passenger numbers required new facilities elsewhere and the Liverpool Road station closed to passengers in 1844, the site remained in use as an important Goods Depot until 1975. When the site closed, a group of far-sighted Mancunians set up the Liverpool Road Station Society to preserve the unique collection of buildings as a working steam museum. That initiative has now become the Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester which likes to be known as 'MOSI' (that always makes me think "Let's mosey on down to MOSI").

In 2005, the Liverpool and Manchester railway was 175 years old and MOSI hosted a 4-day celebration which they called 'Riot of Steam', featuring replicas of the contenders at the earlier Rainhill Trials. I was lucky enough to take part in this event, managing a drive on all of the replicas and giving a talk on the design of early locomotives. My 'Riot of Steam' pictures are here.

The 180th anniversary of the line in 2010 was marked in various ways. At Edgehill station, Liverpool, the Arts Group Metal provided an exhibition starting on the 15th September and going on until the 23rd October. Edgehill claims to be the oldest passenger railway station in the world still in use.

On 11th September, there was an open day at Eccles Station, organised by the Friends of Eccles Station, with street theatre, a brass band, family activities, refreshments and free return trips from Eccles to Patricroft.

At MOSI, the museum's 'Planet' replica was joined by the replica 'Rocket' with its own train. These locomotives gave passenger rides on the museum's line on the 11th and 12th September, the 15th September (the date of the original opening ceremonies) and the 18th and 19th September. I was 'Planet' driver during the afternoon of the 19th and, when we'd finished, I moved across to 'Rocket' as fireman. Charlie from the National Railway Museum let me drive the last passenger trip but, because the fire had been deliberately run-down prior to disposal, the low boiler pressure gave us some problems reversing at the ground frame.

'Rocket' has undergone a number of changes since I was last on her in 2005 - new trailing wheelset, new water barrel, new brake system, a handbrake added, new firebox, boiler tubes closer to the original design.

'Rocket', showing the driving axle and slip eccentrics. The transverse shaft is operated from the foot treadle on the footplate to change direction.

The 'Rocket' replica has Slip Eccentric reversing. This type of motion was also fitted to the 'Planet' class. It was a few years before Gab motion became common and this was quickly superceded by Link motion which not only gave reliable reversing but offered variable cut-off for more efficient working.

'Rocket' - Note rectangular valve chest mounted underneath the LH cylinder; transverse shafts with valve setting levers pointing downwards at 'five o'clock'; Eccentric rods terminated in burnished handles with semi-circular recesses engaged with round bosses on valve setting levers

The set-up of the Slip Eccentric motion on 'Rocket' is more straightforward than on 'Planet' because the cylinders on 'Rocket' are high up at the back, next to the driver. The levers for manually setting the valves drive through transverse shafts. Locking the valves to the (rather splindly) extended eccentric rods is also simpler. Each eccentric rod has a semi-circular recess which is engaged with a round boss on the valve setting lever so that the extended eccentric rod imparts the required motion to the valve setting lever and (through the transverse shaft) the valve. To start the engine manually, the driver knocks the extended eccentric rods out of mesh with the valves, works the valves as required and then re-engages the extended eccentric rods with the valve bosses. Link motion, when it appeared, with its distinctive curved, slotted expansion links was a massive improvement! The simple 'semi-circular recess and boss' method of disengaging the eccentric from the valve can be seen on many stationary engines.

The day I was there, the weather was rather indifferent (it rained intermittently and was cold) but I think the public and the railway operating staff still enjoyed themselves - I certainly did.

My pictures of the 180th event.